Greece. Hellas. Graecia. Visiting the Hellenic Republic has been on my mind long before Grexit fears and decades before life with an obsessed and ancient idiom quoting archaeologist. Ever since I was handed D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths as an 8-year-old, I’ve imagined languid days of oracles and island hopping, afternoons of Athens and Acropolis, and meetings with those who do that ouzo oh so well.
On June 30, 2015, the Greek government missed its 1.6 billion euro payment to the IMF causing a bank run and utter chaos. I was booked for a trip just a few days later and and in spite of headlines of crisis, reforms and protests and chaos, I headed to Kalamata in the Peloponnese peninsula.
Destination: The Romanos
I’ve never been to Peloponnese peninsula so I couldn’t say no when Marriott invited me to experience The Romanos, a Luxury Collection resort about an hour from Kalamata airport. The drive was an infinite and gorgeous landscape of Kalamata olive trees.
The Romanos is a village unto itself. The resort is a compound which includes private beaches, boutiques, restaurants, golf courses, swimming pools and spa. There is an incandescent hue that surrounds the Romanos, soft sherbet colours that are heighted by gorgeous sunsets, and scented with rosemary. Dulcet sounds of birds, cicadas and crickets are the soundtrack to this paradise.
In 2015, The Romanos was already wired into tech with excellent blow dryers, fast wifi and a WhatsApp personal concierge who answered all my questions and reminded me of appointments. I’m pretty sure it keeps up. The rooms were modern styled, and mine had a private bathing pool, which was perfect for me time, and if I didn’t want to work on my tan.
I was looking for a little history with my getaway, and there is no doubt that blue waters of the Bay of Navarino have seen it all- from sea-faring ancient explorers like Odysseuss and medieval crusaders to armadas and warships. Greek Independence sprang from the Pelopponese with the 1827 Battle of Navarino as key to ending Ottoman rule and establishing an independent Greek state.
In Pylos and on islets throughout the bay are memorials and commemorations to the battles and the allied forces (French, British, Russian) who fought with the Greeks, while looming above Pylos is the 16th century Neokastro castle, an Ottoman fortress overlooking the bay. I took a spin around the bay, enjoyed a dip in the cool waters, walked through the castle and then looked for Nestor’s cave at Voidokilia (belly of the ox) beach.
The Romanos also organises experiences that confab history and tradition, whether land and sea excursions or culinary investigations, or both.
All in all, I had a tiny dip in Greece, which reminded me what I had put on the back burner* in these past years. So I’ve already called the girls and we’re planning the next getaway to Athens for more history and food, and a bit of contemporary art. Remember, it’s just a flight away.